There is an old saying that still water runs deep…
To tell this story appropriately I must touch on the lineage of the Mid-South North American Heavyweight Championship and the obsession Ted DiBiase developed for it. DiBiase captured his precious for the first time in late 1976 when the championship was still part of the NWA Tri-States in Florida and Georgia. The title would eventually become the Mid-South North American Heavyweight Championship in 1979 when promoter Bill Watts bought the circuit from Leroy McGuirk and immediately withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance.
DiBiase had started to develop a deep, dark obsession that would eventually consume him and the whole Mid-South territory for the many years that followed. His relentless pursuit had no boundaries and anybody in his way would be devastated. DiBiase was a kid the first time he got his hands on the title and this forever altered his career as he would later become one of the most feared heel wrestlers to ever come out of the territory. It’s a sick and ghastly tale that could compete with anything from The Lord of the Rings.
When times were good, The Junkyard Dog and Ted DiBiase had all the people dancing into the Irish McNeil Boys Club in Shreveport, LA week after week for television. Together the duo had become the positive fan favorites that dominated the top of the cards in single and tag team matches. JYD was the best man at DiBiase’s wedding and it seemed like a friendship that would stand the test of time.
Success had hit JYD very quickly in the year 1982 and in turn, gave birth to jealousy. It started to rear its ugly head within DiBiase the night he was screwed out of the Mid-South North American Heavyweight Championship by Bob Roop and Paul Orndorff. Bob Roop became champion and the events that followed gave rise to a sadistic DiBiase who would remain in this state for the rest of his career.
DiBiase’s hand had been injured in the match with Roop which forced him to tape it up and wear a glove for support in the ring. It seemed innocent. It was Ted DiBiase, he was one of the most beloved wrestlers in the country for years. How could he possibly lie about his injuries? “Teddy” was always a clean wrestler.
The desperation for DiBiase to regain his title became evident the night he would claim to leave Mid-South if he couldn’t win the title back. The challenge was issued to take place in two weeks on television. Whomever the champion was in two weeks would face Dibiase, and if he didn’t win the match he would leave the territory.
JYD defeated Roop just days before DiBiase was set to challenge for the title.
The two best friends had a date set for a collision that would leave its mark on both men and forever change the landscape of the territory.
June 26, 1982 was the date for one of the most memorable wrestling programs in the history of Mid-South Wrestling. Both men looked torn but calm in the interviews before the match. JYD stating that one thing he knows for sure is that he doesn’t have to watch his back because he believes Ted DiBiase is a fair man. Going into this match with that mindset played right into the hands of DiBiase and would prove to be his downfall.
“He was a lamb to slaughter.”- Bill Watts
It was short. JYD was left laying on the mat. DiBiase decided he would double-cross his friend with a loaded glove. The punch put “the dog” down and good old clean “Teddy” walked out champion once again. It was silent. The crowd was stunned. JYD was down and he was not getting up. JYD had never gone down that quickly, it started becoming obvious that DiBiase had won dirty.
This double-cross was one of many to follow DiBiase throughout his career. This was the start of a blossoming heel and the beginning of an infestation of dirty wrestlers that would wreak havoc on JYD. The “Rat Pack” era of Mid-South was about to begin. Jim Duggan and Matt Borne would soon crawl their way out of the shadows and into the light to get the cheese.
The State Fair was in Shreveport making it the perfect setting for a loser leaves town match. The place was packed, and you could really feel the excitement in the air. The fans were all having an enjoyable time and ready for DiBiase to leave town. It was DiBiase and Bourne going up against JYD and Mr. Olympia. The man who gets pinned had to leave town for 90 days. It was time for Dibiase to go home. The fans had been clamoring for it ever since the night of the double cross. JYD was going to get his revenge.
If you had never seen it yourself, you wouldn’t believe me when I told you. A man dressed up in a gorilla suit came waltzing into the Irish McNeil Boys Club to make his presence felt. It started off innocent with the gorilla playing with kids in the crowd and getting them all excited for the upcoming matches. It quickly turned ugly when the gorilla jumped into the action during the tag match and body slammed Mr. Olympia on the concrete floor. The man inside the suit was Duggan.
Duggan ended up being the deciding factor in the match that sent JYD packing his bags and heading home for 90 days.
This was not the end. Just as the young Dorian Gray had done in the novel by Oscar Wilde. A young smiling baby looking at a painting of himself slowly turn old, ugly and gruesome. This was the fate that would haunt DiBiase for years and follow him around like a leprechaun clutching his gold.
Timeline and notable events on the WWE Network – Mid-South Wrestling:
- DiBiase turns on JYD – 6/26/1982
- DiBiase and Duggan demand a shot at the Tag team titles – 09/25/1982
- Champion vs Champion. Dibiase vs Mr. Olympia – 10/16/1982
- Loser leaves town match. – 10/30/1982
This has been the first part of a two-part series. Part Two is the arrival of Stagger Lee, the Rat Pact dominance and the fate of JYD.